Top 10 Podcasts of 2016 4

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The year of the pod

This year’s list is  healthy mixture of just about every type of podcast you’ll find. Instead of a true Top Ten, I tried to grab a little piece of podcast from a bunch of different genres.  It runs the gamut choppy ungroomed conversational podcast to the studio produced sponsor-loving shows.

For the most part, I  excluded some of the staples in the podcast world. That’s what you won’t see This American Life, TED Radio Hour, Radiolab, or Invisibilia.1)Just about everything from NPR is great and is probably a good place to start if you are new to podcasts. Amongst other great pods, those gems have been around for awhile and are still cranking out great content.

The Top Ten awards will hopefully reveal some shows you aren’t yet familiar with. I recommend subscribing to each show and fishing through the “feed” to catch everything you’ve missed, but if you just want a little taster, I have included a recommended episode to get you started.


1. Reply All

P.J. and Alex are a couple of years in to a show they describe as “a show about the internet.” New episodes pop up once a week (approximately) and when they do, I put all other podcasts aside until I’ve plowed through their latest show. Reply All is the first of a string of great shows from Gimlet Media,2)Also try Heavyweight, Crimetown, and Mystery Show so if you like these guys, check out some of the other ones from Gimlet.

Recommended Episode: Zardulu, February 25, 2016

2. Revisionist History

I don’t always agree with Malcolm Gladwell’s political stances and his interpretation of the biblical David and Goliath during his TED Talk is fundamentally flawed, but this 11-episode season is truly a work of art. There is plenty of fuel to agree, or disagree, with Gladwell as he revisits history and questions the implications.

Recommended Episode: Hallelujah, Episode 7





3. The Tony Kornheiser Show

Kornheiser crashed into the podcast world in September and refuses to take prisoners. The inside jokes are relentless and plentiful. It won’t take long before you too become a “loyal Little.”

Every day at 11 o’clock Eastern, the show is uploaded and it is impossible to predict the tangents this bald orange man will take over the course of these hour-long episodes. The sports talk is good. The jawing over current events is fine, but the real treasures come when TK takes us down a rabbit hole containing is remarkably simple but hilarious life.

“I haaave a piano!” “Come on man. What we doin’ out here man?!”

“La Cheeserie!!”

Recommended Episode: It’s a daily podcast, just start today.




4. Up and Vanished

I know. I know. I miss Serial, too. I’m guessing there are dozens of super sleuth podcasters out there and I’m sure their all doing their best Sarah Koenig impression, but this series is more than worth a listen.3)In the currency of Podcast Land, more than a listen is a “Subscribe” It’s based on the disappearance of Tara Grinstead, a former beauty queen high school teacher from a small town in Georgia. The 8 years since her death there have been no suspects or new evidence and countless gaffs by local investigators. This podcast changed all of that and the entire investigation.

Recommended Episode:  Start from the beginning, you’ll be caught up by tonight. Cold as Alaska, Episode 1




5. The Fantasy Footballers

I’ve listened to a lot of sports and fantasy podcasts over the past seven years. I’m not shy about admitting what a remarkable waste of time this is, especially when you face the reality that fantasy football is an absolute crapshoot. That will also help you come to grips with the fact your girlfriend is about to take home the championship this year. But if you insist on making a mockery of your own time by listening to a fantasy show, these guys are pure gold.

They’re  just like you and me, except they have a great podcast that may or may not lead to fantasy victories. And although I don’t listen after about Week 10, they crank out content year ’round.

Recommended Episode: Another daily podcast, if you were lucky enough to make your fantasy playoffs




6. Maccabee Society

In a predictable move from my pops, he forwarded me an email he received recommending this podcast without ever having checked on the content. The only way to find out if it had the goods was to try it out.4)I think he uses me as a filter to figure out if something is worth his time. Well, I’m about halfway through all the episodes the and…color me convicted. These guys are SOLID. So, I now have recommended back to my dad.

In short, it’s two Catholic PHDs talking about topics men, especially husbands and fathers, are tackling everyday. Judas Maccabeus, a Jewish military mastermind from the 2nd Century BCE, provides the backdrop of the Maccabee Society.

The title is a link to their website where they have a ton of great blog posts too.

Recommended Episode: Man Caves, The Study, and Identity, Episode 8



7. Building a Story Brand

Brought to you by the author of the crowd-pleasing book, Blue Like Jazz, Donald Miller has brought what his business does for brands to the podcast-o-sphere. Telling a story with your brand and making your customers/readers/clients feel like the hero of the problem they are trying to solve is more important than I ever could have imagined. The content is marketing driven, but practical and motivating for just about anyone.  Most episodes feature some pretty solid guests that help unpack a piece of what it means to tell a story with your brand.

Recommended Episode: Secrets of Insanely Good Customer Service, Interview with the Canlis brothers, Season 1, Episode 8



8. Ask Pastor John

John Piper just recorded his 977th episode of APJ. Admittedly, I don’t catch as any episodes as I used to, but these short podcasts are the gift that keeps on giving. Those familiar with Piper are often overwhelmed with is ability to interpret scripture and make sense of unbelievably difficult topics. Pornography, gun control, abortion…nothing is off limits and the nature in which he tackles these tough issues is as close to the gold standard as you can come.

JP deserves a spot on the 2016 list simply because this has been a tough year. Between race, the election, sexuality in America, and everything else that is causing everyone to purge their “friends list,” Pastor John has tackled these things with unbelievable discernment and mountain of scripture to boot.

Recommended Episode: Search Ask Pastor John on Google and use their search tool to find a podcast episode relevant to something you’ve been wrestling with. I’m willing to bet he’s tackled the topic more than once.


9. The Bill Simmons Podcast

Simmons left ESPN last year after the aftermath of a falling out with the powers that be and taking shots at Roger Goodell. He’s the brainchild behind Grantland (when it existed) and 30 for 30. He launched his own site and brand, The Ringer, shortly after leaving. Those familiar with the BS Report (what his podcast was called when he was with ESPN) know he needs no introduction. But if you haven’t had the pleasure, click subscribe and listen to Bill and his guests, which are mostly a mixture of his old friends, talk about sports, pop culture, politics, and whatever else he has a fancy for at the moment.

Recommended Episode: Simmons has done interviews with President Obama, Malcolm Gladwell, Al Michaels and The Miz. The best episodes are with the recurring guests you’ve never heard of like Joe House, JackO, Cousin Sal, and his dad, Bill Sr. A good starting point is an NFL episode that comes out on Mondays, The Weekly Lines with Cousin Sal

10. Planet Money

Oldie but a goodie. This NPR podcast has been around for a few years, but it continues to crank out great episodes about current events and how they impact the economy, finances, and business. 15-20 minute episodes, make it easy to real off a dozen shows this week. The show is quick and to the point, but very thorough on the topic they hit. Bonus: This is the one podcast my 9-year old doesn’t mind I put on in the car and it’s educational.

Recommended Episode: We Buy Oil, Episode 1 of a 5-part series about oil in America, August 10, 2016


BONUS: Guilty Pleasure of the Year

Sarah and I will throw on an episode ever once and awhile and spend the next 30-45 minutes cracking up as we listen to two grown Christian adults who’ve never met in person, Knox and Jamie, dissect everything embarrassingly great about American pop culture. From Zac Efron to Ariana Grande to the Bachelor to The Office. It’s all trash. It’s all great.

Recommended Episode: Urban Dictionary 5, Knox and Jamie open up their vocabulary by exploring new words in Urban Dictionary.



Podcasts are becoming like ear lobes, everyone seems to have too and a lot of them are weird. It’s impossible to listen to even a fraction of the content that’s available, but if you listen to your podcasts and 2x, you’ll get closer.

Which podcasts did I forget? What’s your favorite podcasts over the past year?

Honorable Mentions: Tell Me Something I Don’t Know, Crimetown, The Village Church (sermons by Matt Chandler), Tell Me Another, Marketing Over Coffee, ProBlogger, The Way I Heard It with Mike Rowe, Keeping It 1600, Mystery Show, Embedded, and Serial Season Two

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. Just about everything from NPR is great and is probably a good place to start if you are new to podcasts.
2. Also try Heavyweight, Crimetown, and Mystery Show
3. In the currency of Podcast Land, more than a listen is a “Subscribe”
4. I think he uses me as a filter to figure out if something is worth his time.

About Brent Nichols

My blogging is, no doubt, all over the map, but hope you'll find something just right for you. Currently living in the D.C.-metro area in Northern Virginia. You know what? I think I kinda like it out here.

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